How You Can Use Memory Tricks to Study for Tests

test prep

Are you interested in memorizing study materials using the very same trick applied by competitive memory athletes? This blog post will teach you how to use this method to ace your tests.

Tricking Your Memory

When you think of competitive sports, you probably imagine jerseys, balls, and physical exertion. If your definition of a sport is more open-minded, you might even include chess in the category. But while few of us think of memorization as a competitive activity, an entire world of international memory championships exists in which people from around the world compete to see who can memorize things the fastest. Tasks include memorizing the order of a deck of cards, personal details about fictional people, and long series of numbers.

Memory athletes compete in memorization

While it may seem that success in a memory competition, or the ability to memorize a string of hundreds of numbers, requires extraordinary intelligence or talent, memory competitors rely on training methods, or memory tricks, that are quite accessible to the public. Should you take an interest in learning and applying these methods, you'll significantly improve your ability to memorize material, likely surprising yourself with the capacity of your own memory.

For example, if you're a student who has to study for a test that requires a lot of memorization, like remembering history dates, math formulas, or how words are spelled, you may find memory tricks intriguing. If you'd like to learn about the very memorization methods used by world champions and how to apply them when you study, read on.

What Is a Memory Palace?

The main trick used by memory athletes is an ancient approach called loci, or a ''memory palace.'' This technique involves using your imagination to place various symbolic objects in an imagined environment or space that you can later recall when you need to access the information. This approach works because our brains have evolved in such a way that we're more likely to recall how to do things rather than remember abstract information like numbers.

Memory palaces are an ancient method used by memory athletes

If this idea sounds a little tricky, here's an example. Let's say that you need to memorize the names of the other kids in your science class. Among them are Leonard, Maria, Dennis, George, and Liz. To start the memorization process, imagine a space that you're already familiar with, like your house or the halls of your school. Then, associate each name with a clear image.

For example:

  • Leonard - leopard
  • Maria - mirror
  • Dennis - tennis ball
  • George - gorge
  • Liz - lizard

Next, imagine walking through your imaginary space, placing each object in a sequential order along the walk. You'll see a leopard by your front door, a mirror over your couch, a tennis ball on the stairs, a painting of a gorge by your bedroom door, and a lizard on your pillow. Later, when you want to recall those things, you'll imagine walking into your house and into your room, noticing all of these strange objects along the way and remembering their corresponding names. Give it a try - it's easier than you might think.

How Can You Apply It to Your Studies?

Now that you know how to construct and use a memory palace, the real question becomes: how do you use this approach to study for and ace your tests? Well, it all depends on the information you want to remember. Information of many different kinds can be visualized when using a memory palace, but for the sake of this example, let's say you need to memorize the dates of all of the important American wars: 1775, 1812, 1846, 1861, 1914, 1939, 1950, 1960, 1990, and 2001. In essence, these are a series of numbers.

Using memory tricks, you can memorize long sequences of numbers

You can memorize these numbers by associating each digit, 0 - 9, with an image. Here, 0 might look like an egg, 1 like a snake, 2 like a fish, and so on. Then you'd use the same memory palace technique we talked about earlier to place these images in a physical space, making it easier to remember the number series.

Like any skill, the more you practice the memory palace method, the easier it will be. Once you have it down pat, you'll easily be able to apply it to any tests involving memorization.

Other Memory Techniques

Though the memory palace technique is by far the one most commonly used, memory athletes employ other strategies. For example, the peg method involves ''pegging'' material to other items on a pre-memorized list, such as the songs on your favorite album, the players on your favorite team, or something more universal, like the letters of the alphabet.

You may also have heard of chunking, or memorizing items in ''chunks'' rather than individually. For example, when presented with a list of 100 numbers, a memory athlete will group together chunks of three to four digits, rather than memorizing each digit separately.

Whichever memory trick you use, we wish you good luck.

For more help studying for your tests, check out the course index on, which covers all subjects and grade levels.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
July 2019
test prep test readiness

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